Prospects to Draft and Stash (Fantasy Baseball)
The last few rounds of fantasy drafts can either be very boring or the reason why you win your league championships. Last season is a picture-perfect example of this. If you drafted Cody Bellinger and stashed him on your bench until he got called up, there’s a good chance you laughed all the way into your league’s playoffs.
We all know that prospects are becoming a bigger and bigger part of fantasy baseball with each passing season. However, we’re not always quite sure when they’ll be called up that season. It could be on Opening Day, as a September call-up, or sometime during the dog days of summer.
Below are several high-profile prospects that likely won’t crack the Opening Day roster, but their statistical upside is worthy of a late-round pick and a spot on your bench until they get called up. There are plenty more prospects set to debut in 2018, but their impacts are expected to be less significant. Therefore, they didn’t make this list.
Likely Drafted in Earlier Rounds: Shohei Ohtani (SP/DH – LAA), Ronald Acuna (OF – ATL), Luiz Gohara (SP – ATL), Gleyber Torres (SS – NYY), Victor Robles (OF – WAS), Francisco Mejia (C – CLE), Alex Reyes (SP – STL), Austin Hays (OF – BAL), Lewis Brinson (OF – MIA), Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX)
Likely Will Make Little to No Impact in 2018: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B – TOR), Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS – SD), Bo Bichette (SS – TOR), Brendan Rodgers (SS/2B – COL), Forrest Whitley (SP – HOU), Mitch Keller (SP – PIT), Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU).
Draft and Stash Candidates (The Fab Four)
Eloy Jimenez (OF – CHW)
A 60-grade hit tool and 70-grade power are what dreams are made of. It’s also what Eloy Jimenez is made of. The 21-year-old Dominican slugger is, without a doubt, the top power threat currently in the minor leagues. He doesn’t quite have the gaudy home run numbers to show off yet, but there’s no doubt that this is a 40+ home run slugger in the making.
That massive raw power started poking its head out in 2017. In 333 at-bats between two levels (High Single-A and Double-A) in both Chicago systems, Jimenez racked up 22 doubles, three triples, and 19 home runs for 44 extra-base hits. Upper echelon power hitters usually have an XBH% (Extra base hit %) of 38+%. Jimenez’s XBH% last season was 42.3%. His power wasn’t graded as a 70 for nothing.
Now, it’s worth noting that Jimenez likely won’t be up until June at the earliest. He only has 68 Double-A at-bats under his belt and is likely to get a couple more months of seasoning in the minors before getting the call to the White Sox. Even with just 200-250 at-bats, Jimenez’s combination of elite power and a plus hit-tool make him a potential difference maker down the stretch this season. ETA: July
Nick Senzel (3B – CIN)
There might not be superstar upside here, but Nick Senzel is arguably the most polished hitter in the minors. In 698 at-bats since being drafted second-overall in 2016, Senzel has hit .315/.393/.514/.908 with 64 doubles, 21 home runs, 32 steals, 105 RBIs and 122 runs scored.
The number that stands out the most from Senzel’s stats above are those 64 doubles. That’s an incredibly lofty total for under 700 at-bats. Just last season alone, Senzel whopped 40 doubles in 455 at-bats to go along with his 14 dingers. He doesn’t have huge raw power like Jimenez, but Senzel should be able to become a 25+ home run threat in short order to go along with his high batting average.
Most scouts and prospect hounds expected him to move quickly, and that’s exactly what he’s done, finishing 2017 at Double-A Pensacola. Regardless if he starts back at Double-A or gets the bump to Triple-A, it shouldn’t take more than a couple months for Senzel to reach the majors this season. If given 250 at-bats, a .280/15/10 season is a distinct possibility. The upside and not so far away debut make Senzel an attractive player to stash in all leagues. ETA: June
Michael Kopech (SP – CHW)
There’s really no other way to say it. The White Sox rotation is a massive question mark coming into the 2018 season. The two veterans in this rotation are Carlos Rodon who is coming off shoulder surgery and an aging James Shields, who quite frankly, just isn’t that good anymore. The rest of the rotation has some potential with Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer, and Reynaldo Lopez, but when I look at that group, the first phrase that comes to mind is “hot mess.”
The abridged version of that is there’s plenty of opportunity for an elite arm like Michael Kopech to crack the rotation at some point mid-season. You’re going to want him on your team when that happens.
Kopech owns arguably the best fastball in the minors. He hits triple-digits on the radar gun regularly and sits comfortably in the 96-98 range deep into starts. It’s not very often that 80-grades get thrown around for a prospects’ tools, and an 80-grade was given to Kopech’s fastball without any hesitation. If that wasn’t enough, he pairs it with a downright filthy slider, which is his go-to out pitch.
The so-so control will likely limit how deep he goes in his Major League starts, but the nasty arsenal will likely net him a respectable ERA and an elite K/9 rate. Like I said, you’re going to want Kopech on your roster, so why not do the old draft and stash here? ETA: July
Walker Buehler (SP – LAD)
This Los Angeles Dodgers rotation should come with a warning label. Not a single starter made 30 starts last season and the 24-27 starts each pitcher made was actually an improvement for guys like Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Why am I saying all this? Because it won’t be long before an opening appears for Walker Buehler in this rotation.
When that opening does appear, look out. Buehler possesses one of the best overall arsenals in the minor leagues and rose quickly through the Dodgers system, needing only 93.2 innings to reach the Majors late last season. The results were pretty, but hey, it was only 9.1 IP and the future is definitely bright for Buehler.
Buehler features a mid to upper 90’s fastball with two plus breaking balls and a changeup that should be at least an average or above average offering for him. He’s able to control all four pitches well and really attacks hitters in all counts.
While Buehler doesn’t have a rotation spot at the moment, it’s still fair to project him for somewhere in the vicinity of 100 innings this season, which would make him a very intriguing player to stash for the first month or so of the season. ETA: May
More to Stash
Brent Honeywell (SP – LAD)
Oh, look. Another good Rays pitching prospect. Honeywell has a diverse five-pitch arsenal with four of those pitches being considered plus offerings. Included in that is his signature screwball. Not many pitchers throw that pitch anymore, but Honeywell has mastered it and turned it into another weapon along with his mid-90’s heater, slider, and plus change-up. The best part is that he controls all of these offerings well and limits the free passes. Once an opening presents itself in Tampa, Honeywell should be the first one to get the call and has top-50 SP upside the rest of the season. ETA: May
A.J. Puk (SP – OAK)
Puk reminds me so much of a young Andrew Miler. It’s scary. He’s a big 6-foot-7 lefty with a blazing fastball and a wipeout slider. Unfortunately, he has the same control problems that plagued Miller early in his career, and he’s yet to find consistency with his changeup. He’ll likely start back in Double-A to begin 2018 but could make his way into the Oakland rotation before too long if he can limit the walks. If the control improves, we’re looking at a potential top-40 SP this season once he’s called up. ETA: July
Scott Kingery (2B – PHI)
C’mon, Cesar Hernandez isn’t going to hold off Scott Kingery forever. Especially when Kingery possesses a plus hit tool, 40+ steal wheels, and plays very solid defense at second. Kingery surprised many last season by muscling up and flirting with a 30/30 season. Don’t expect that much power going forward, but a .280/10/25 season is well within reach if Kingery can overtake Hernandez early in the season. ETA: April/May
Ryan McMahon (1B – COL)
One of these days, Ryan McMahon is going to find a long-term position and become another offensive force for the Colorado Rockies. Since he doesn’t quite have the range to play second base and is blocked by Nolan Arenado at the hot corner, that position looks like it will end up being first base. And would you look at that, first base might be open for the taking this season. There’s still plenty of free agents to be signed, but as it stands now, McMahon and his plus offensive profile have a shot to lock down a significant role early in the season. If given 500 at-bats, 20 home runs and a near .300 average could be in the cards. ETA: April, if not Opening Day
Anthony Alford (OF – TOR)
The playing time situation for Alford got a lot murkier when Toronto decided to add a couple aging veteran outfielders instead of giving extra time to their young players who actually have a future with the team. Alford is likely ticketed for Triple-A to start the season but should be a difference-maker with his legs once he gets called back North of the border. ETA: May/June